Omega Optical partners with private equity firm

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BRATTLEBORO — Omega Optical, which was founded in Brattleboro 51 years ago, has been sold to a Boston private equity firm that specializes in industrial technology firms.

According to an announcement from the company Tuesday morning, Artemis Capital Partners of Boston has purchased the firm, which Omega and Artemis both described as a "partnership."

Robert "Bob" Johnson, the founder of the company, will remain with the firm, both as a major investor and as a chief technology leader of the firm, along with Thomas Smith, who has been with the company since 2018 as chief executive officer.

The announcement said the company would remain an active Vermont-based company, with goals of expanding employment and jobs.

"Having recently celebrated our first 50 years as a company, we are delighted to partner with

Artemis and continue growing the

company here in Vermont for the next 50 years" said Johnson.

"With the strategic support of Artemis, we gain critical additional resources to build on Omega's legacy here in Brattleboro," said Smith, the company's chief executive officer.

Smith said in an interview that the partnership with Artemis was initiated by Omega, which was seeking a transition plan for the long-term, eventual retirement of Johnson.

He said he was brought on to Omega to start that process, and he said finding the right fit for Omega was an 18-month process.

He said a total of 31 private equity firms were evaluated for the partnership, and Artemis was the leader throughout the process.

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"This is part of a succession plan. We ran a very comprehensive and deliberate process in seeking the best capital partner. We did outreach to 31 private equity companies and whittled it down to find the best partner for us. Artemis was our favorite," he said.

"And the reason we chose Artemis, they are very much aligned with very much what we do and they have a track record of investing and growing companies," he said.

He said that Artemis specializes in what he called "differentiated technology," or specialty technology manufacturing, and that Omega is its first photonics investment.

"We are highly specialized," he said. "Not every company can do it."

Smith called the deal with Artemis a "partnership" rather than a sale. "I'm still the chief ex officer, and Bob, who maintained a significant ownership interest, is the technology officer. We made sure our partner was committed to continuing the business here in Brattleboro," he said.

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And most importantly, he said, "We want to grow the business in Brattleboro."

"We wanted to find not just someone with capital, we wanted to find someone to help us, who had the experience, to help us grow," said Smith, who came to Omega from an alternative energy company which made wind turbines, Ogin Energy of Waltham, Mass.

Omega makes specialty optical filters which are used in a variety of high-tech applications, including the PCR machines used as the gold standard in testing for the coronavirus.

According to Artemis, which was founded in 2010, it invests in "differentiated industrial technology companies." Johnson founded the company in 1969 in West Brattleboro. He is a graduate of Marlboro College.

"We will continue to pursue further job growth and employee development and be an active member of both the local community and the greater Vermont economy.

"With the strategic support of Artemis, we gain critical additional resources to build on Omega's legacy here in Brattleboro. We will continue to pursue further job growth and employee development and be an active member of both the local community and the greater Vermont economy

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"Artemis's understanding of our core markets, technology and value proposition allowed us to quickly align on the key priorities for Omega's next phase of growth. Our customers and channel partners can count on a seamless transition and an unwavering focus on quality, delivery, and exceptional application expertise," Smith said.

Artemis said Omega is "uniquely positioned to grow both organically and inorganically."

"In Omega, we saw a company with an innovative culture, exceptional technical capabilities, and a desire for growth. Omega's deep applications expertise, OEM business model and differentiated technologies are signature characteristics of an Artemis partner company." said Peter Hunter, managing director at Artemis and new chairman at Omega.

Euan Milne, vice president at Artemis and a new Omega board member, said, "We are thrilled to partner with the talented Omega team and are honored to help build on the longstanding success of the Company. Omega represents the first company of Artemis's Optical Technology platform, which will serve the growing global demand for high precision, no-fail optical coatings, components and assemblies."

Milne couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Smith said Omega currently has 85 to 90 fulltime employees, with some part-time employees. Many of the full-time employees are working from home during the current coronavirus pandemic. He said the company is looking forward to getting all its employees back at the Delta Campus, as its Brattleboro location is called.

He said the company is doing well despite the pandemic.

"The company is still strong in orders and revenues and has not been impact in any measurable way by the pandemic," he said. About half the company's employees are currently working from home, or working from home with reduced hours at the office.

"Despite that, our revenues have been strong relative to the year before," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com


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